I sit on the open side of the service truck and kick my feet. I am accompanied by the team manager, engineer, chief mechanic and two other guys from the MP Sports team. We are two kilometers from the finish line of the 420-kilometer-long measured section, we are looking at our mobile phones and pushing forward with our eyes the arrow under which is Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka’s Shrek. Then I click on the trucks, the first motorbikes are already at the finish line.

Everything looks good so far. Sebastian Loeb, whom we are all rooting for, started a while ago. Although he took a loss and we are talking about where he will probably fall and what would probably have to happen in order for Sainz and the hybrid Audi RS Q e-tron not to win. At the same time, if Loeb finished, it would be a move forward in the standings for our boys. And what are we going to do, Sainz and Audi also deserve it for the three-year effort…

And suddenly the arrow stops under which Mathieu Serradori is hidden and a moment later Lucas Moraes, two big rivals of Martin Prokop. “My God, what’s going on over there.” We imagine the rocky fields, canyons, dry rivers, navigational traps, thorn bushes, camel grass, and the occasional dune. “The most difficult stage,” the words of David Castera, the director of the competition, resonate in our heads.

The teams have no information and just like the enthusiastic fans, they follow the live timing and the arrows on the virtual map. The crews have sealed mobile phones, they can only open them in case of emergency or after passing the finish line, otherwise there is a penalty. So we keep putting our feet up and waiting. Our arrow is still moving, it just stopped for a moment.

“We met them. One of them had a muffler pierced through the hood all the way to the sky, the other had a broken wheel. They went one step at a time and will drag it to the finish line,” we learn from Prokop an hour later. He arrived at the finish line, two punctures, but satisfied. “Everything was boiling in me as he drove slowly, but it made sense,” Victor Chytka says. An hour later they are already in the bivouac, the day before the finish line of the competition they are fifth among the cars. Fifth place! In competition with all those factory teams! Three cosmic Audis, two Fords, maybe nine Toyotas, five BRXs… I have goosebumps, I’ve been nervous since morning and now this!

But that’s enough, it’s all still a long way off. And whoever listens to the podcasts on the 1000 Horses channel knows that rituals are played here and they certainly don’t get ahead of themselves!

Foto: MM Technology

Martin Macík senior, chief designer and gray eminence of the team. He will also tell you that you should only celebrate at the finish line.

“We’ll finish it tomorrow, even if we have to carry it on our backs,” says Martin Macík emotionally at the finish line. He has a two-hour lead over second-placed Aleš Loprais, who in turn has over two hours ahead of third-placed Dutchman Martin Van den Brink. Czechs have been waiting twenty-three long years for success among trucks! If it works, it will be big. What about the lack of Russian Kamazes and Belarusian Mazes, history does not ask. And those who witnessed it would rather remember the year 1988, when Karel Loprais, Aleš’s uncle, reached the finish line of the Dakar at Růžové jezera in first place, Jiří Moskal and Liaz in second place.

But neither MM Technology nor Loprais have their hands up yet. And it’s not celebrated at MRG either, where Martin Michek is doing everything to be in the top ten among bikers again. Today he finished ninth, thus equaling his own best position of a Czech rider among motorbikes at the Dakar, and he has a lead of twelve minutes until the last stage. This is also a far greater success than many people in the Czech Republic think. There are even more factory riders on motorcycles than in cars, and the distance between the riders is often only a few seconds after a few hundred kilometers.

But tomorrow it’s only 175 sharp kilometers. And that stage is relatively simple, even according to the organizers. But… Imagine driving under the pressure of having a good position. Competitors behind you are a few minutes or seconds away from you, or on the contrary, you want to push further. Remember how Toby Price was tantalizingly close to his third trophy at the start of stage 14 last year, but his twelve second lead was not enough to keep Kevin Benavides from passing him. And now put yourself in the role of de Mevius, who has Loeb on his back with a ten-minute deficit. And Loeb can pull it off. And second place is more than third.

The truth is that the Czech competitors have it going really well. In all likelihood, we don’t have to worry about driving failure or navigational error. Their ride at the Dakar 2024 could only be ruined by a technical failure or an accident at the crossing. That’s why everything is being diligently screwed up now, that’s why everyone is easing their fears. A few tents next to us is the charred torso of a T3 class buggy on the lift, maybe like a raised finger…

Be sure to chill the champagne and wash the Czech flag. But please don’t celebrate yet!